Simply gorgeous — Panpot, Québec
When all is said and done, maybe what we really want from a record is to witness creativity. To be led into a room where musicians take on their instruments. If you lean in and hear breathing and rustling, if you notice that the instrument — even a little uke — is fighting back, it’s a good thing. These are signs of life. And if music gets prized from old pieces of wood and string before your eyes, it’s a prize to treasure. All you’ll hear on this recording is a ukulele and a suitcase. But amazingly, paradoxically, that confining element is its liberation, and ours. Lovely, lyrical moments are everywhere. Time gets established in subtle ways, and subtly falls away. Geographies pass. We leave the streets for the dunes. Melodies expand and contract. If there was once a wall of sound, then this disc is a window. Open it and enjoy a new view.
CD (BR 0306)
- Label: Barnyard Records
- BR 0306
- UCC 777320145925
- Total duration: 61:28
- Jewel case
- 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
- 85 g
On the web
In the press
One of the true measures of artistic and creative ability is the discipline of limited means — what to do with a ukulele, a suitcase and a repertoire of charmingly idiosyncratic melodies whose execution has a built in tendency to fall apart? Myk Freedman’s Saint Dirt Elementary School ensemble have long since mastered the inverse improvisation aesthetic of deconstructing into nothingness while maintaining forward motion. Haynes and Martin have not only approached Freedman’s melodies with sympathy and respect but have extended the tribute to include some of the same wondrous dissolutions, as well as some taut and focused explorations. One of the aspects straightforward composition affords improvisers is the freedom to inhabit and expand without getting ensnared in complexity. Haynes and Martin have succeeded in compounding magic with more magic and opening a sunny space for all.
Simply gorgeous. This new release from the Barnyard Records imprint further demonstrates how bigger isn’t necessarily better.
The overriding philosophy about running your own record label is the exhilarating joy of building a project, your very own project, from scratch — and watching it evolve into something beautiful, with the hope of engaging a community of like-minded individuals. There’s also the romantic idea that you’ll be able to discover and release some new remarkable talent along the way. But on the flipside, the ability to release your own material, especially new creative projects which ordinarily fall before deaf ears, is probably the secret jackpot which gets a good number of musicians involved in the first place. And that’s exactly what you get here, in all likelihood, from percussionist and producer Jean Martin’s label Barnyard Records, through his duo with Justin Haynes.
Remarkably, all you get on Freedman, is a ukulele and a suitcase. The initial idea sounds a little rogue, a little sparse, but that’s all you get. Really. For these two forward-thinking individuals, this is the vehicle to peddle the music of fellow Canuck Myk Freedman, and it works incredibly well. Haynes’ plucked chords dance softly, and dangle in thoughtful directions. Martin’s shuffle is a little more abstract on occasion, and provides a little weight to the feather. For all its lacking in the realm of sonic possibilities, there’s a simple liberating breath, a subtlety in the melody, and just a wonderful spirit; like a dusty needle or a faint lyrical flutter from a simple, captivating landscape.
Freedman sits quite well next to two other releases from the label, namely the excellent Mexican-Parisian free-jangle of It’s Only Life! from the eclectic Blah Blah 666— with its evocative flourishes of melodica, b6 defretted guitar, and plastic blow things tailor-made for slow-poke afternoons. The other is the duet recording between Toronto saxophonist Kyle Brenders and legendary saxophonist Anthony Braxton who combine twisted forces on two “ghost trance compositions” on (the poorly titled) Toronto (duets) 2007. Needless to say, there are some nice things running around the farm these days.
The Martin-Haynes duet album Freedman is the oddest of the bunch. Haynes is on ukulele throughout, and Martin’s kit is simply a suitcase. (Do musicians still play on suitcases in hotel-room jam sessions these days? It’s a sound familiar to anyone who’s got a copy of the old Bird on Tenor session….) The setlist consists of seventeen tunes by Myk Freedman, the lap-steel player who masterminds the St. Dirt Elementary School (local faves at the Tranzac Club). There are no feats of Jake Shimabukuro-style uke virtuosity here, just a gentle ramble through Freedman’s ought-to-be-standards: lazybones serenades, plingy dance music, miniature Chadbournesque string-violence, shuffle-and-thump grooves, ghostly Oriental ditties and faux-bossa. The players are recorded in tight close-up, which makes the uke sound splendid and gives everything an intimacy that’s as affecting as bittersweet melodies like “Love Boat of Love”. Haynes plays with a laidback charm and grace, occasionally letting things drift whimsically off-course, and (as on all these albums) Martin’s ability to get a huge sonic variety out of next to nothing is uncanny. It’s good-humoured music, but they’re not playing it for laughs or kitsch; it might sound like a gimmicky premise for a CD, but give it a try and it’ll pleasantly surprise you.
Monday, December 15, 2008 / New releases